MO Bicentennial Minutes: Livestock Husbandry 200 Years Ago in Missouri
Livestock are valuable for food, fiber, and economic security--even more so in 1821. For example, a milk cow provided a crucial part of a settler’s family diet that might be life or death. Nonetheless, husbandry practices for many might be an open shed as shelter for livestock and rail or pole fences. Farmers turned out hogs in the prairies and woodlands to fatten on natural forage. Because farmers fed livestock at the homestead, most rarely wandered too far.
Nonetheless, animals strayed. The general assembly enacted a legal procedure to assist. Farmers registered a unique brand or mark (usually a notching pattern in the ears) with the county. The stray law provided more stringent requirements for the more valuable equines. Any landowner “taking up” a stray horse had to report it to the local justice of the peace within 5 days; for stray cattle, sheep, goats, or hogs within 10 days.
The “taker up” had to swear the mark was unaltered, then appraisers estimated value. The justice of the peace forwarded the information to the county clerk. The law required the taker up advertise stray horses in a public newspaper within 40 days, but only required posting of public notice for strays valued at less than $20.
The owner could stop the process by proving ownership, and had to pay a reward to the taker up, ranging from 10 cents for a hog over 6 months old to $1 for equines over age 2, and pay costs. After one year, the taker up could take ownership by paying half the appraised value to the county; otherwise the sheriff sold the estray at public sale.